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"If you talk with the animals, they will talk with you and you will know each other. If you do not talk to them, you will not know them, and what you do not know, you will fear. What one fears, one destroys."
- Chief Dan George



 

Storietails

“Stewart” – 12 yr. male/neutered Collie/Sheltie cross – distance telephone communication

Stewart is a 12 yr. old collie/sheltie mix. When Michelle called me, she had a feeling that there was something else wrong with Stewart’s persistant but inconsistent limp in his front right leg. If it was arthritis, it wasn’t consistent despite several visits to the vet and reassurances that all was well and simply a by-product of advancing age. When, I connected with Stewart, what he showed me immediately struck me with fear. I saw his leg like a computer-graphic x-ray photo. There was a blackening of the bone from the elbow up with black root-like shoots extending upward towards shoulder. Through years of personal experience, when I see this type of image it is often indicative of a possible cancer. Stewart continues to describe the pain that he often feels in the leg, which is quite different from the arthritis he feels in his joints. He even shares an approximate time, from his recollection, when this pain began.

Throughout the next couple of hours, I continued to communicate with not only Stewart, but also with his ‘family-mates’ of two other shelties. One of them even notes that they have detected a strange smell emanating from Stewart’s affected limb – something, I have found, that is not at all uncommon in many animals. They can literally smell cancer.

Of course I am not able to diagnose nor definitively tell Michelle and her husband that it is actually cancer that Stewart has – I am afterall, not a veterinarian, but I do share with them what he has so clearly shown me and do encourage them with my strongest conviction to seek veterinary help immediately and to insist on more tests including an x-ray. They do so the next day and although the vet is reluctant to do some of the tests, again stating that it is probably only arthritis that is bothering Stewart, they are done. The results come back. The vet is stunned. Stewart has bone cancer in his right front leg.

Thankfully however, the cancer has been caught early enough and with a new medical regime and under veterinary care, as of this writing, Stewart is still walking, and even occasionally running, over two years later. I am very grateful for not only his openness and sensitivity to his own body, but also to Michelle – who followed her gut and intuition and went further to discover the mystery behind her beloved dog’s ailment.

 

“Lola” – 1 yr, old female/spayed brown Tabby cat – long-distance telephone communication

Anna is a bit of a workaholic and very fastidious. She loves her young tabbycat Lola, but is very upset about a certain habit of hers. Even the vet seems a bit stumped as everything else about Lola is purrfect. Lola has the disconcerting habit of, upon her person’s arrival from work, going into her litter box, taking a piece of fecal matter in her mouth and dropping it in front of Anna – preferably in the middle of the room. A particularly strange behavior for most animals and especially for a cat.
After communicating with Lola on the origins of this behavior, I was able to share with Anna that this habit initially formed as a result of an accident (poop stuck on bottom) and then a favorable outcome from where such accident landed. In plainer terms, one evening Lola lost a stray piece of stool in the middle of the living room floor. Lola recalls that Anna became quite upset over this, her voice getting very high pitched and ending in her chasing Lola around the house trying to catch, discipline and clean her.

Lola is a very bright and active cat. She gets quite bored and lonely throughout the day as at least 5 days out of the week she is left home alone while Anna is at work. The shrieking and chasing was more fun and activity than she had in a very long time. Anna is often tired when she gets home from work and does not have a lot of energy to engage her in play. As far as Lola was concerned, this was a brilliant tactic even though it started out as a misfortune. If it aint broke, don’t fix it – a motto I have been reminded of time and time again! Lola realized right away that she could repeat this each evening and get almost the same desired affect. Hey, even negative attention was good attention to Lola and it’s not like Anna was ever really angry, just frustrated.

I asked Lola what she might need to help her to amend this behavior as her person was very obviously weary of it and also concerned about her cat’s health carrying around all that … you know… I reiterated her tedium and isolation home alone and that Lola had asked for a feline companion to help her pass the time, keep her company and play. Lola hoped that this other kitty would be as gregarious and playful as her. As I passed this information onto Anna, I also recommended (should she decide to go that route) adopting from a cat rescue organization as they often have a very good idea of each of their felines personalities.

Shortly thereafter, Anna did indeed get Lola a wonderful, young feline companion and the ‘poop-drop’ game ended immediately. Two very happy cats, one very happy person & a spotless living room floor ensued.

 

“Trina” – 33 yr. old female African Elephant – in-person communication

Trina has always been an outsider. Her keepers and her vet at the zoo are often concerned for her safety and her health. She tells me that she is at the bottom of her herd pecking order and quite frankly has always preferred the company of her human caregivers to her elephant sisters (non-familial calves brought to the zoo from Africa after their herds had been slaughtered for ivory and reservations filled to bursting with orphaned pachyderms, I am sure, has a part to play in Trina’s situation). The human keepers certainly do not pick on her and even give her special treats. She shows me a particular favorite, a deep cranberry red hard candy with a soft centre that when she bites down on it with her molars, sends a burst of potent liquid throughout her mouth. Fantastic! It is later confirmed by one of the keepers that this special & delicious treat is actually cough candy.
Today Trina is standing near the elephant house away from the herd with her head slumped. I am at the other end of the elephant compound that is not accessible to the public. While chatting with the elephant keepers, I suddenly double over due to a very sharp pain in my abdomen. Each time I try to ignore it, it only gets stronger. It is then that I realize that this is not actually my pain, but that I am feeling it from one of the elephants – but which one of the 7 pachyderm girls is it?. (This feeling of pain or stress from an animal in one’s own body is just another way of communicating. I like to call it ‘mirroring’ and it usually dissipates once the issue is addressed.)

The keepers voice their concern but I explain that it is in fact one of the elephants that is feeling this pain in her belly. I connect with each of the ‘girls’ in turn and ask each of them if they are experiencing any kind of an abdominal upset ... early on however, my attention is drawn to Trina. Within moments I am able to tell the keepers that it is Trina who needs to share that she is in some form of gastric distress. One of the keepers confides that this is not an unusual occurrence for her and even that morning she had been suffering from diarrhea. All of us, including the veterinarian, make our way over to where Trina stands, apart from the rest of the herd, leaning on the elephant house. It is clear she needs to share her feelings and she quickly gives me a list of symptoms in her body. Amongst other complaints, she feels this tummy upset is different from the most recent disturbances and shows me that a parasite may be involved. (Yes, animals are that in tune with their bodies!) Trina continues to go into great detail about what is going on in her digestive tract – she shares many pictures including copious bubbles & movement in her bowels. No sooner does Trina relay this thought then she passes a huge gas bubble! Above our heads none the less. Talk about an exclamation point!

The wonderfully compassionate & skilled vet asks if there is anything that Trina may need/want to make her feel more comfortable. Amongst a shopping list of answers that include garlic, onion, particular red berries (from an indigenous plant in Africa which the elephants use to self-medicate – some cellular memory there), and a host of other ‘treats’ – Trina goes into the most detail in describing and showing to me a round baseball sized “oat-cake”. When I describe this further to the veterinarian and keepers as per Trina’s request, for a moment everyone is a little puzzled. Is it a “monkey cake”? The answer is No. Those are more square and flat and like a biscuit and not round and soft and doughy. Trina is insistent and explains further that she remembers having had these ‘balls’ before, and that they had some sort of pills inserted in them. Her memory does not fail her as she recalls that indeed the last time that she was given one of these “oat balls”, she did indeed begin to feel better. In a moment the mystery is solved! The vet and keepers remember that exactly this kind of balled-oat treat had been given to Trina before with anti-biotics and medicine inserted into it’s centre. What Trina couldn’t get for herself, she certainly knew how to ask for. She was thoroughly assessed by the veterinarian and treated for her ailment, not without however, rhyming off a diverse list of favorite treats including cupcakes (with frosting of course), chocolate brazil nut toffee’s and sugarcane. There was not a peanut amongst the bunch.

 

“Bubba” – 5 yr. male/neutered English Bulldog – home visit

Bubba has never been any trouble. Recently however, he has started to snap and bite the hands that feed and love him - and anyone else who may dare to get close. What was once a welcomed pat on the head, has turned into a snarling game of dare. His people, Leanne and Adam are at their wits end. They are afraid that Bubba has become ‘vicious’ and are considering the painful and heartbreaking decision to put him down. Despite being skeptical, they have asked me over as a last resort.

When I arrive Bubba meets me enthusiastically at the door and as I get comfortable on the floor (my regular spot), he sits beside me and lets me gently touch his body while I listen to what he has to say about his dramatic change in behavior. He does not snarl or try to bite once. Instead, he is deeply grateful to tell his family what is going on and does so almost immediately. A few months earlier, when Leanne and Adam were at work, Bubba spied a squirrel through the sliding glass door to the back-yard. In his excitement to get to the door and ‘bark that squirrel away’ he missed a step leading down to the sunken living-room and took a tumble. This topple, he shows me, involved quite literally falling head over heels. With adrenalin and focus on overdrive and override, he simply got back up again, ignored the pain and went on with the barking. Throughout the communication Bubba continued to show me where in his body he hurt the most and especially the consequence of this fall. There were a few places on his spine that were effected by the accident on the stairs and over the next few weeks became stiffer and more seized with an escalating level of pain and discomfort. There is a point on his spine where the neck meets the skull that has become so painful and knotted that on top of everything else, he is now suffering from headaches so severe that they verge on migraines. So badly seized is his spine.

His family remembers him becoming steadily lethargic and apathetic during this time but were not sure to what it could be attributed to as all of his routines and feeding remained consistent. Of course, they were not privy to his disastrous attempt to curb squirrel sabotage. Bubba had been hoping that they would notice in how much pain he was in and how reluctant he had become to do the things he had previously so loved before, the people he had loved to see - but it is hard for us humans (even in the best of times) to detect pain from animals who are known to be stoic and who do not show it in any obvious ways (i.e. a limp). As the pain in Bubba’s head increased, he became more and more agitated at the thought of someone, anyone, touching him on his head and/or neck. The pain was unbearable. The only way that he knew to deter even those he loved from doing this was to snarl. When this message was mis-read, his reaction to the pain of those approaching to rub his head and neck became too powerful an expectation of further hurt and his behavior turned defensively aggressive. At no time did he want or have any intent to hurt those whom he loved and knew but there was no other way he could be understood or left alone. He was also exceptionally reactionary. Anyone who has ever had a migraine can no doubt identify with this. Bubba was desperate for help. It was also during this conversation that he talked of his person having also sustained an injury in the past year that was causing him similar emotional feelings. Adam was shocked when he realized that his dog (as our animals are wont to do) was also holding emotional anger and aggression on his behalf too.

After a relatively short discussion I suggested that perhaps the best thing to do to help Bubba ASAP was to take him to see a veterinarian that also did chiropractic or acupuncture work on animals. Both Leanne and Adam were doubtful but especially Adam, who thought it was little more than nonsense. Leanne however considered that option but it is safe to say that both of them had very real reservations that their dog’s behavior was the result of a simple fall down some steps and those repercussions. It couldn’t be that easy surely. Nonetheless, I continued to encourage them strongly to at least check the chiropractic alternative out. Their beloved friend needed help, it was up to them to try to do whatever it took to support him through that.

A few days later, I received a call from Leanne. She had taken Bubba to the chiropractic vet that I had recommended. The vet was amazed, quite frankly, that Bubba was still walking. All the places in his spine that he had told his people about were out of alignment. The base of his skull was so out of place that the entire area was emanating intense heat and had to be adjusted 4 times in the span of one day. Leanne rang to say that within 24 hours of the initial adjustment, they had their ‘old’ Bubba back. She was amazed, and best of all Bubba felt infinitely better. He continued to have chiropractic treatments for some time to get his body back into balance and is back to being the affectionate and enthusiastic bulldog that he always has been.

 

“Tara” – 4yr. female Red Tailed Hawk – telephone communication after a home visit

As well as being a husband, father, horseman and all round animal lover, Mark is also a falconer. Tara is his beloved bird and friend – they are a unique and wonderful partnership, so it is no wonder that he is so upset when she refuses to eat and has severe digestive troubles. Nothing in her routine has changed and he does not remember her getting into anything suspicious on any one of their last hunts. The vet suspects an e-coli infection but it is unclear where she may have picked this up.

I asked Tara if she may have an idea of where she may have gotten sick and characteristic to her matter-of-fact style, she was sassy and to the point. She showed us that the chicks she was being fed (when not hunting) still had the yolk sacs attached. She was also very clear to point out that those very yolk sacs were the culprits and source of her infection. Not being a falconer, I was not even aware that this was the type of food she was fed off-season but Mark confirmed that Tara had been getting fed (frozen) quail chicks. This would have not been unusual except that recently he had needed to find another distributor of this kind of raptor food. Tara was insistent and kept showing me the yolk-sacs. Mark did not question her and took her off of that food immediately. Upon further investigation it was found that indeed the chicks, and particularly those with yolk-sacs, were infected with e-coli bacteria. That particular breeder of the chicks was subsequently found to run a shoddy, dirty and inhumane operation and was put out of business. It took some time for Tara to recover and she needed veterinary care and antibiotics, but within a couple of months she was able to fly and hunt on her own again. From a hawks point of view, there are few things sweeter than being healthy enough to do just that.

 

“Blackie” – 13 yr. Thoroughbred gelding – barn visit & communication

“Ask him why he’s such an asshole!” Huh??!
That was the question posed to me when I visited a very blunt but gifted and accomplished horsewoman named Janice. That was all. No follow-up or background. All I knew was that amongst the several horses in Janice’s paddock - many of whom were rescues - Blackie was indeed, the black one. Also, that Janice had worked with other communicators in the past and was not overly impressed & undoubtedly gave them just about as much information & conviction as I just got. Needless to say, I was intimidated before even stepping foot in the corral!

Walking into the paddock with Janice,I began to communicate with Blackie by first introducing myself to him and asking him if he would be open to having a conversation about his person’s concerns for him. I never once asked him whether or why he is an (alleged) asshole.

Blackie readily approached me so that we were face to face & with the understanding of horsy-politeness, we ‘blew’ at each other in greeting and acknowledgement. Only his eyes signaled that he was haunted by something. As the other horses gathered round in a semi-circle ‘listening in’ (in an almost Disney-like fashion), I continued to connect with Blackie, stroking his ears, forelock, neck & muzzle. Janice moves her hands over Blackie almost continuously as we talk.

For all intents and purposes and in my experience, the conversation is brief but pointed. Blackie very clearly shares with me that he no longer trusts human-beings. He had a tough life before he had been rescued by Janice but it was a particularly terrifying and painful incident that had cemented that belief in him. He shows us a time earlier when Janice was training him with a Hackney chariot (like those used in racing) and how after hitting a hidden stump in the field, the chariot literally began to fall apart to where Janice was ditched and Blackie ran around in terror through the field with the sharp extensions of the ‘chariot’ screeching behind him – cutting up not only the ground but also his hind quarters. By the time Janice was able to catch up with him to hold him safe, he was at the point of exhaustion and collapsing in shock & terror. Janice confirmed this event and asked what she could do to make him feel more comfortable around humans as she loved him very much and wanted one day to ride him again. Blackie had trepidations in answering and asked why she would want to ride him when there were so many other ‘beautiful’ horses that were unafraid to be ridden. I communicated Janice’s answer to Blackie but he insisted that he needed to hear it verbally from her and that she address him directly. She did so. Blackie then communicated again his horror and panic from the accident and asked that he never again be put in that position. Janice promised him that he would never be strapped to a hackney chariot ever again. As she continued to check his body over, Blackie thought for a moment and then told Janice that he would accept a bridle and that he wanted the one specifically that had sheepskin round it; the one that was hanging closest to his stall in the barn. She agreed though she was surprised as that bridle hadn’t been used in quite some time, and told him again how much she loved him. Blackie agreed to think about the possibility of letting a human ride him once more and then quite abruptly communicated that he was done talking for now and with a shake of his head, galloped off – with herd in tow.

It was only on the way back to the farmhouse that Janice, who is also an equine vet, confided that Blackie had not let anyone get within 100 yards of him for over 4 years! He even had to be sedated to be shod. I’ll never forget that moment, as I sputtered “But, but, but...?!”.. Like an old cow-hand, Janice just said “Yep.”, snorted, and continued on to the house.

Several months later, I visited Janice again for a social event at her farm. I found Blackie with his head at the fence, looking for some kind of attention along with the other horses. Despite having had a minor reactionary setback a short while earlier which Janice was able to address with the help of some homeopathic remedies, Blackie now pesters Janice regularly about riding & will remain forever more one of my favorite people and one of my most indelible memories.

 

“Karl” – 9 yr. male/neutered Rottweiler – distance telephone communication

Something is bothering Karl. He won’t look over his shoulder without flinching and has been hanging on his families every movement. He’s even lost his appetite. Unheard of! This is not what you would expect from the 145 lb. Alpha Rotti of his canine pack and primary guardian of his human, canine and feline family.

Now I have to tell you, Karl is just about the biggest Rottweiler that I have ever met and as brave as the days are long. He has a noble heart and a gentle soul that is likely to smother those he loves with kisses. In my opinion, he is the very best of what this breed has to offer. When I connected with Karl and started on the detective work , he tells me that he is feeling well enough in his body and that all is well within his family, but this resolute dog – who is usually fearless – is spooked to the point of trembling at the thought of being left alone. The last few days have been quite uneventful. It is a mystery to all but Karl. What he shares with me has everyone, including myself, wondering...

Karl’s strange behavior started almost immediately after James and Grace visited a friend at her old (and rumored haunted) stone farmhouse. All was well as everyone was relaxing in the living room enjoying the woodstove and conversation. Then Karl became extremely agitated and was asking so desperately to go out that his people were sure he was ill. After going out and nothing of any consequence happening, he was brought back into the farmhouse but his anxiety did not improve throughout the evening. In fact, throughout the next couple of days, it only got worse.
I must admit to being quite surprised at the pictures that Karl was showing me describing why he had become so agitated that evening in the old farmhouse, and even more frustrating to Karl was the fact that no-one else seemed to share his trepidation!

Karl communicated that he was just fine, relaxing and dozing, until he was startled by what appeared to be a huge hauling wagon come through the west wall of the living room and exit through the east wall. The detail he showed me was remarkable – a team of 6 mixed-breed horses pulling what looked like the front-end of an 19th century stream engine train, black as coal. The two men driving the wagon were in period gaucho wear right down to their handle-bar moustaches, slouchy hats & exhausted expressions.

What surprised and scared Karl the most was that when he looked round the room for comfort and/or recognition of this phenomenon, all, including the other dogs, seemed oblivious. He knew it wasn’t right and he knew it wasn’t necessarily real – so what was it? Had Karl seen a ghost haul? Either way, it was certainly enough to freak him out and he begged continuously to go outside and home. Even home, he wondered time and time again if he would see this apparition again. Every shadow and peripheral movement was fraught with suspicion and fear.
Recounting this to James & Grace, admittedly seemed a bit strange but it did fit with Karl’s initial behavior. I have also learned repeatedly that when an animal shares an experience as clearly as Karl shared his, they do not lie. They do not make these things up. Combined with his reaction to the frightening experience, there was no reason whatsoever to doubt what he was sharing, regardless of the skepticism & surprise.

I assured Karl that he had nothing to be afraid of and that he was more than safe in his own home. If it had been a ghostly traverse, it clearly meant no harm to anyone. I shared that it was more than likely he would never see that scene again and even then, it was not something to be anxious of. I also convinced him that it was ok that no-one else had seen what he had seen and that he was simply a more sensitive boy, which made him feel a little better.

We were all intrigued however and the owner of the home was contacted. She did not at all seem surprised and in fact relayed several experiences of her own when riding her horses on her property. At times they would all stop and simply wait – as if watching something go by, before continuing on their ride. No amount of coercion would get the equines to move when they were like this, watching… So, some research was done. Neighbors were consulted and historical archives searched.

As it stands, there is a railway line that runs just parallel to the property, but in the 1800’s there was a stage-coach line that ran right through her property (where the horses would halt & wait for ‘something’ to pass) and though the house was built later on, through her very living room. There was even an early photo of a team of horses pulling railway ties and, you guessed it, the front end of a steam engine.

So Karl the huge and sensitive Rottwieler was vindicated - and with a little help from his vet, who is experienced in natural medicine, was treated to help calm his frazzled nerves. He was back to his old self within a matter of days and visits to the farmhouse no longer faze him.

The mystery still remains however about what he saw… ghosts of events past, or simply a fold in the fabric of time? Some mysteries we may never know – but at least the animals, like Karl, have no doubts about what they see and know to be true.